Southampton’s Under-23s took another step closer to the 2020/21 season, with a narrow defeat to National League side Woking at Staplewood Campus.
The Cards scored the only goal of the game after 54 minutes; substitute Jayden Wareham latching onto a cross and firing home from close range.
The side which took to the field for the first half featured a mixture of Under-23s regulars and individuals from last season’s Under-18s side, as well as some returning loanees.
Will Ferry and Jake Hesketh took roles on either flank, whilst Tom O’Connor skippered the side from left-back as Harry Lewis started between the sticks.
Woking’s starting eleven included two trialists, with a further four looking to make their mark from the bench.
The visitors were forced into an early change after just eight minutes, with Ben Gerring coming away from a heavy challenge with an injury he could not recover from.
Saints had the opening chance of the game after ten minutes; Ferry’s corner met by Enzo Robise who headed just wide.
Woking had almost a carbon copy of that chance 15 minutes later, as Dave Tarpey’s cross at the back post was met by Jack Cook who headed over from only a few yards out.
The hosts responded; Josh Sims bursting down the right flank after 27 minutes, before firing an effort across goal which Woking keeper Craig Ross did well to tip past the far post.
Sims again burst forward three minutes later, this time down the left wing and cutting inside; forcing Ross into a save at his near post.
Woking had another glorious chance five minutes from the break; Max Kretzschmar headed through John Goddard one-on-one, but the forward was denied by a superb Lewis save.
The Cards’ next effort came through skipper Josh Casey down the same flank, this time the effort smashed the crossbar with power from a tight angle.
But despite the flurry of late first-half chances, it remained scoreless at the interval.
It was a fast start to the second half for both sides; Woking had an early set piece which was eventually collected by substitute keeper Jack Bycroft at the back post, before Saints’ Ramello Mitchell, also fresh off the bench, headed just over from Ferry’s well worked cross.
But it was the visitors who made their chances count first, breaking the deadlock after 54 minutes through Wareham after an inviting cross by one of Woking’s trialists.
Caleb Watts led the Saints response with some strong runs through the centre of midfield, drawing fouls from the opposition who struggled to contain him.
Mitchell also looked lively since coming on at the break; turning and shooting under pressure inside the penalty area and forcing Woking’s substitute trialist keeper into a save.
Next to test the Woking backline was Ferry, whose strong effort in the 65 minute across goal proved another test for the trialist between the sticks.
Saints continued to peg the visitors back; Seamas Keogh with a beautiful through-ball into Kazeem Olaigbe after 68 minutes which the visitors did well to hound out before a shot was made.
As the game started to come to a close during the latter stages, Saints looked to counter from a Woking corner with Olaigbe leading the charge, but the midfielder was stopped in his tracks by a cynical but tactical foul which lead to the game’s only yellow card.
A further chance came through James Morris who fired just over for the hosts, but the score line remained 1-0 until the final whistle.